Turning Imagination Into Cash
CHARLES C. JENKINS
SAMPSON, just returned “Gents’ from the Outfitter,” café down had the street. The keen ozone and bracing tang of the mellow winter day engendered optimism. An excellent lunch and favorite cigar had produced a mellow mood and a feeling of peace and goodwill toward all the world. It should have been the psychological moment for anyone with something worth-while to sell to call on Sampson.
No doubt that is the very thing that Packard, the salesman, thought also, for Sampson had barely ensconced himself in his little office on the mezzanine floor of his haberdashery when young Packard, smooth, keen, immaculate of dress and correct but easy of bearing, came strolling in. Observing that Sampson was already engaged, he stood waiting at the foot of the little stairway, kid gloves in hand.
The trace of a frown gathered at Sampson’s brow. “Excuse me just a moment,” he asked of me. “I want to tell that traveler I’ve no business for him to-day, then I’ll be right back.”
The conversation at the foot of the stairs was as brief as it was to the point. Sampson was glad to see Packard and extremely sorry there wasn’t a thing in the way of an order he could turn over to him. Business was slow—very slow, owing to unseasonable weather and the times generally. He had decided to buy sparingly and very, very cautiously for the next six months.
No doubt next time Packard came West things would be livelier. At any rate, bland Mr. Sampson hoped for the best.
Packard gave not the slightest symptom of chagrin. Instead he smiled and gently persisted. Wouldn’t Mr. Sampson care to walk around to the sample rooms to look over some of the new offerings? They were exceptionally attractive in price and quality. Any time, at Mr. Sampson’s convenience, would do.
Sampson declined very kindly but very definitely. It would be no use—just a waste of time on the part of both of them. Until things started to move a little faster he wouldn’t think of buying. Too bad indeed, but if there had been any line he stood in need of he knew of no one to whom he would sooner give the order than to Mr. Packard.
“Hated to turn him down—an awfully decent and likeable young fellow,” Sampson remarked when he returned. “But the general public isn’t buying anything that it can possibly get along without just itow, so I have to do likewise. If I had gone around to his sample rooms and taken up my time as well as his I would likely have given him an order for something or another I can quite well get along without until prices generally get on a more stable
How He “Sold” Sampson
APPARENTLY the incident was closed. But it wasn’t— at least not so far as Packard was concerned. A week or so afterward I ran across him in the smoker of a transcontinental going East. During a conversation that followed, I casually asked him how he found business in the West. “Oh, not so bad,” he replied. “I had to work a little harder for it, but my sales this trip are really better than last time.”
“You must have encountered better prospects than our mutual friend, Sampson,” I ventured.
He looked at me keenly, then apparently recognized me as the man who was in Sampson’s office when he called. “Oh, I ‘sold’ Sampson,” he replied quietly. “In fact, I secured a very good order from him.”
“Then you succeeded in enticing him to your sample rooms after all?”
He smiled broadly. “No, I took a leaf out of Mahomet’s book. Sampson wouldn’t go to the sample room, so I took the sample room to Sampson, so to speak. It was this way: While I was in his store I mentally noted that though he was apparently heavily stocked, there were many lines that were getting woefully out of date—stuff that should be cleared out at bargain prices to make way for up-to-date goods. I knew Sampson knew that, but it would be folly to attempt to remind him of it. I went back to the sample rooms, and with the assistance of a bell-boy, took my sample cases up street. At Sampson’s store I casually dropped in with them. I asked Mr.
Sampson hurriedly if I might leave them on a table at the back for an hour or so while I attended to some pressing business I had in hand elsewhere.
“I was careful to leave the cases opened out with the samples oí goods displayed that I knew
Sampson stood most in need of, and I did not tell him that I was going from his place to interview a rival merchant. I left him to make his own conjectures.
. “It was quite the natural thing for Sampson to come downstairs after I had gone out and give those samples the ‘once-over.’ That was all I wanted him to do. When I returned an hour later, Sampson not only was keen to discuss matters with me, but, like the good business head that he is, had mentally listed the articles and the quantities of each that he wanted to buy. I had actually to warn him to be conservative about one particular line that he would have overstocked with.
“Yes, I’ve made quite as good a record this trip as I have made in much better times, but I have had to work a great deal harder and use my wits.”
That little ruse of Packard’s and similar inside stories of the selling craft of Canada have convinced me, as a lay observer, that there is something much more powerful in its influence than mere personality and glibness of tongue that the salesman of to-day must bring into play along with hard work and determination.
That something is Imagination.
Cashing In On An Idea
A STORY is just now going the rounds of an insurance agent in a western city who actually turned in to his office
a signed-up policy for $50,000 on the life of the district manager of a rival insurance concern. Just how an agent for one company could secure a policy on the life of the head of the sales force of a rival concern is at first sight difficult to conceive. As a matter of fact, the manager under whom this agent worked, when he first saw the papers, was inclined to think that a practical joke had been perpetrated on one of his new men. He instituted a cautious inquiry and was further confounded by absolute confirmation from the executives of the other insurance company.
He called the agent in, and, after congratulating him, asked him how on earth he managed it. The agent replied that the idea came to him one morning while he was walking down to the office. He turned it over for a day in his mind, then went up to see the general manager of the other company, whom, for present purposes, we shall call Brown. The agent opened the conversation by pointing out to Brown that should he die to-morrow his was a loss the company would be unable immediately to replace. They could obtain other men to take his place, but none who could for a long time maintain current business at the same peak. Why shouldn’t Brown's company insure itself against such a loss? They preached insurance and believed in insurance, and why should not they take advantage of the very safeguards they promoted for the benefit of other companies and individuals?
“Quite so, quite so,” smiled Brown. “But for the life of me I cannot understand why you come to remind me of this.”
“Because I want to have your company insure your life for fifty thousand dollars in our company,” boldly asserted the agent. “Doesn’t it appeal to you that by such an arrangement your company would be protected against your loss and another company would be assuming all the risks in connection?”
It set the manager thinking. The viewpoint so appealed to him that he brought the agent’s suggestion before his board of directors. The upshot of it was that the board of directors decided to insure their general manager with the rival company, because they had a sincere belief in the principles of their own business, and the audacious agent with a working imagination reaped a fine commission.
Dodged Flivver, Hit By Coupe
SELLING advertising space in newspapers calls for the keenest sort of modern salesmanship, especially in times of declining trade. A metropolitan advertising man was faced with the prospect of one of his largest users of space dropping out temporarily. After his salesman had failed to hold the business he went around to see the man himself, proposing that the firm use a small space to keep the name before the public until their factories resumed operations.
But the president of the company in question seemed to have quite made up his mind about matters. “No,” he said, “I can’t see that. I don’t think we could quite reconcile ourselves to a few inches of space where we had been using pages previously. It would be equivalent to a well-known man about town selling his limousine and buying a flivver to take its place. People would immediately conjecture that he was down and out. No, we’ve decided to drop out entirely until things pick up.”
That is the point at which many salesmen would have become discouraged and quit the battle. But this salesman is a believer that there is a second chance always so long as he can come up smiling. “Suppose that well-known man bought a coupé instead of a flivver,” he suggested. “People would then say: ‘Oh, Mr. So-and-So has put up his big car for the winter and is using a new coupé,’ whereas without a car of any kind they would naturally draw their own conclusions and he would be in danger of being forgotten. Why not let us give you an ad. of the small closed car type instead of a flivver? The cost would be only slightly higher than that of the small space first suggested.”
That happy suggestion captured the imagination of the customer and won the order, simply because by quick thinking and apt illustration the salesman had interpreted his client’s need.
the salesman had interpreted his client’s need. Resourceful salesmen sometimes employ unique methods to get into the presence of big men who hedge themselves roundabout with employees whose chief business is to prevent strangers from taking up their time. Here is the story of an actual coup by an amateur salesman
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Young X, a student, was delegated to secure advertising from certain business men for a college magazine. Among the prospects on his list was a prosperous manufacturer whose clerks had explicit instructions to prevent the student’s kind from gaining access to the busy man’s office. Time and again young X sent in his card, and on each occasion was left to cool his heels in the outer office until belated word would come through to him: “Mr. Blank is too busy to see you at any time to-day.”
One afternoon, coming up the stairs, young X noted through the glass door that a new clerk was on guard in the vicinity of Blank’s sanctum. That gave him an inspiration. Quickly he peeled off his hat and coat, flung them in a corner of the outer hall, and, rolling up his shirt-sleeves, as he had noted most of the clerical workers in adjacent offices had theirs rolled up, he walked briskly through to the office gate.
“I think Mr. Blank wants to see me at once,” he advised the girl at the gate as he passed hurriedly through. Mistaking him for an employee from one of the other departments, she smiled and went on with her work.
Blank looked up in amazement at the shirt-sleeved youth who appeared before his desk. “Well, young man, who are you and how did you get in here?” he demanded.
X made a clean breast of it, but with rather more diffidence than boastfulness. He told of his repeated failures to gain access to Blank’s office and how he had tricked the clerk outside in a moment of I desperation. Stern old tiger-man though
he was, Blank could scarcely repress his admiration. He asked the youth his age and when he expected to complete his college training. “When you get through,” he promised, “there will be a position open for you on my staff.”
Young X, however, had another position waiting for him when he finished his course and did not accept Blank’s offer. To-day young X is sales manager with a western Ontario organization.
This Butcher Lacked Imagination
DUT there is always danger in attempt-*-* ing trickery. Sharp practice may succeed once or twice with a salesman, but in the end anything that even savors of deceit will sooner or later permanently injure the reputation of the salesman and the house he represents. Blackmail has not been an unknown practice with unscrupulous solicitors of trade. Sometimes it has proved a dismal failure as in the case of a guttersnipe publisher, who, during a lean period, thought to induce a well-to-do-butcher to advertise in his paper instead of with contemporaries. Walking into the butcher’s place of business one day and being refused the order he sought, he sniffed at the air in a significant manner. “Johnson,” he said, “your shop smells to high Heaven. It is only another proof that you sell bad meat.” “Well, what are you going to do about it?” defied the belligerent Johnson.
“I am going to expose you,” threatened the publisher. “I am going to let the people know you keep bad meat.”
The big butcher quietly picked up his cleaver, and, squinting an eye, tried its edge with a hair pulled out of the back of his head. Then he approached his visitor. “Looka here, Mister,” he bellowed, “you get out of my shop, and stay out, or you'll he some of the rotten meat lying around
The other man looked from the menacing eyes of the butcher to the gleaming blade of his cleaver and lost no time in obeying the injunction. His little bluff had been effectively called. Fortunately, unscrupulous salesmen who resort to mild types of blackmail to secure business are nowadays very rare.
As a matter of fact, moral fibre is one of the essentials which big houses demand in t he men who would sell their goods to the retailers and the general public. In some quarters there appears to be a belief that the averate travelling salesman becomes worldly and cynical with a scorn for the finer sentiments. Nothing is farther from the truth. To be successful, they not only must hold the respect and confidence of other men, but, in order to have faith in themselves, they must have an inward justification for it. They must feel clean —in heart and mind, as well as in body.
Two sales managers of long standing and country-wide experience were asked what qualifications they deemed most essential in the men they picked to fill highly-paid positions in their sales departments. Curiously enough the two veterans stressed similar essentials and apportioned them to percentages of value that were identical:—
1— Sincerity, 50 per cent. 2 Personality, 25 per cent. 3—Confidence, 25 per cent.
“Sincerity shines in a man’s face,” said the chief of a sales force that moves millions of dollars’worth of goods from producer to consumer yearly. “The man who is not sincere sooner or later convicts himself out of hiá own mouth. He cannot for long maintain an outward appearance of sincerity if he does not live a clean and honorable life. I have witnessed abundant proof of that.
“Y'ears ago, when I was on the road myself, I made very valubale connections with the head of a big house that resulted in our securing almost exclusively what business he could turn our way. I prided myself I had gained this through the fact that we had both been residents of the same town in our earlier years. A matter of loyalty on Mason’s part to a fellow-townsman, I thought.
“I was right in one sense and wrong in another. One day after Mason had given me an exceptional chance to meet the attractive offers of a rival company who were seeking to wean his business away from us, this president and general manager leaned back in his swivel chair. ‘Do you know why I give you preferment?’ he asked me whimsically.
“I said I surmised it was partially on account of our former acquaintanceship in another town,
“Nothing of the sort!’ denied Mason. ‘Friendship isn’t the motive. I’ll tell you what it is. It is previous proof that you are honorable and sincere. I saw enough of you and your dealings with your fellowmen before you started on the road to know I could trust you and depend upon you to tell me the truth. You know one grows to have wonderful confidence in the man who not only desires to tell the truth but takes infinite care that he does not tamper with the truth. That’s where you
The Force of Imagination
T TNDER the head of Personality in the foregoing list come personal appearance, address, intelligence and the general appeal of the individual. One sales manager stated that while he himself envied men of big, imposing physical proportions, he had to admit that the best general records for continued sales in his organization were made by men of medium and under medium height. In his estimation it was the “man beneath” that counted. Confidence, the third great requisite in a salesman’s makeup, includes courage, self-reliance and faith in your goods. Genuine confidence in himself and the firm he is working for are absolute essentials if the salesman is to make a proper appeal.
Those are fundamental qualities.
Hoads of big sales forces also stressed imagination and originality as essentials. No doubt, imagination properly applied to selling methods is one of the most valuable assets a salesman can have—quite in the same manner as the most effective advertising consists in publicity that makes a
direct appeal to the imagination of the individual. The value of a trained man with an imagination cannot be computed; he is a pearl beyond price. Only his severance from the concern he has been attached to will tell the tale in gradual loss of the prestige he built up for it with the curious cunning of a resourceful mind. Imagination is one of the gifts divine. Coupled with industry and determination, it is the thing that makes the so-called “super man.”
The Ontario supervisor of a big Canadian insurance company was dilating on those very qualities in salesmen one afternoon when a young man of somewhere around thirty-eight walked in from the outer offices, left some papers on his chief’s desk, and went out again.
"That man,” indicated the supervisor, “is our star salesman.”
“What would a man of his calibre average income per year?” I asked.
“Men of his particular calibre are few and far between,” replied the other. “His total income last year was thirty thousand dollars.”
Thirty thousand, selling insurance! That meant he had earned for himself slightly more than an average of one hundred dollars a day for every working day in 1921, one of the most difficult years to sell something that people imagined they could get along without.
The supervisor said he secured a few exceptionally large policies, but in the main the policies which piled up his high total were about the general average in amount. “One would almost be led to believe it was largely luck on his part, if we were to judge by surface conditions,” continued the supervisor. “As you may have observed, he has not the appearance of an over-worked man. You never see him rushing madly about and he does not work long hours.”
What then was behind the selling power of this salesman who could make his services worth thirty thousand dollars a year in cold cash? Investigation proved that he is not what is known as a “mixer” socially. Until last Summer he was never identified with a club of any sort, and at that time he joined a golf club, solely, he explained, for the recreation it would afford him. His home is his club.
“The man on the job who shows why he should get the business and depends solely on his powers of proving the actual value of the commodity he is selling not only has more satisfaction out of his achievements, but he thus increases his prospects for future business,” moralized the supervisor in discussing the methods of his star salesman. “How often it is the experience of a club-man to have a fellow-member come to him in an apologetic manner and deliver himself of something like this: ‘Say, Jones, I’m sorry now I turned that business over to So-and-So, but, you know, they kept after me at the office so persistently that I signed up with them to.get the thing over with. Next time, old man, I’ll try to remember you.’
“Now that is not by any means an uncommon experience with business men and salesmen who depend too much on club membership taking the place of eternal business vigilance. Furthermore, while it is a poor sportsman who will attempt to drum business during visits to his club, it often actually happens that a ‘prospect’ will resent the overtures of a fellow-clubman on the grounds that he is taking advantage of his friendship-to sell him something. A man properly ‘sold’ should be ‘sold’ on the merits of the goods he is buying and without leaving an after-impression that he spent his good money to do somebody a favor. Clubs are all right in their place, and I belong to several myself; but out of a long experience as a salesman, not only of insurance, but of books and several other commodities, I have come to the conclusion that social pull is not an essential in the matter of securing business and, that thirty thousand dollar a year man we were just discussing is a living proof of it.”
“But then there must be some particular reason for his phenomenal sales,” I contended. “What would you say it was?”
Making the Other Man “See It”
I WOULD say it was his ability to appeal to the imagination of the people he approaches with a proposition,” the supervisor replied. “Let me cite an instance which illustrates the point. There is a well-known business man in this city whom I tried to insure for a period of years. I advised him to take out fifty thousand in addition to the protection which he already carried, feeling that amount was the maximum I could induce him to consider. I failed to make an impression on him and rival salesmen were quite as unsuccessful. His stock reply was, ‘Oh, I carry enough insurance now to take care of immediate expenses in case I should die suddenly. That was about all one could get out of him. Finally I, with the others, gave him up as a hard-boiled impossibility.
“It was some years later that the agent we were talking about walked in with a policy from this very man for one hundred thousand dollars!
“How did he land it? He told me he first studied the man and the various businesses in which he was interested and found that he was the driving force in them all. One day he dropped in on the ‘prospect’ and in the fewest possible words drew a vivid picture of the businesses the latter had created, their wonderful development and the possibilities they had if the man who conceived them lived long enough to perfect his dream.
“ ‘But, Mr. Smith,’ he followed up, ‘what if you died to-morrow? You know better than anyone else that the immediate taking away of the main asset of the business—which is yourself—would make its value depreciate tremendously. Perhaps it would depreciate to a much greater extent than you have ever let yourself realize it would. You say you have most of your spare cash tied up in these enterprises. What would your family dojorreadymoney in such a case? The succession duties in connection with your estate would have to be paid, within a short period, in cash. That would mean, perhaps, that your heirs would have to sell, at a sacrifice, vital portions of the businesses you have worked so hard to create, in order to meet the succession duties and carry on after your death. It is this possible crisis in your family’s affairs that I have come here to offer you security against.’
“Then the salesman, while his prospect was picturing the chaos that might actually occur in such an eventuality, laid his proposition before him and experienced little difficulty in closing for a policy for one hundred thousand dollars.”
There are times, however, when the imagination of the “prospect” is by abad move on the part of the salesman started working in the reverse order. Take the case of a well-to-do young farmer whom an insurance agent friend had been working on for some time. One day, while the farmer was in the city, the agent thought to impress him with the financial strength of his company by taking him through the head offices, and showing him the fine building and its magnificent appointments. Afterwards they had lunch with a half-dozen other insurance agents of the company.
“I was mighty glad to get away,” the prospect told a friend next day. “During lunch not one of those seven insurance men said a word about business, but they all looked at me with such hunger in their eyes I felt like one in a den of muzzled lions. Later, when my friend, Archie, did broach me on taking a policy, I kept on seeing those expensive head offices and the high salaried men in them, and it stuck in my mind he was really asking me to take a share in paying for all of it. I didn’t insure.”
The Secret of One Man’s Success
IMAGINATION is sometimes used by expert salesmen to spur their own minds to the keenest effort. A veteran salesman, now an inside executive with his firm, but whoformerly traveled all over Canada with a special high-priced line of goods, once told me this story of his experiences: “I learned salesmanship under two old-timers, both hard-headed, self-made captains of industry. They ‘broke me in’ canvassing local ‘prospects’ there was little hope of ever selling to. Later on I was given a list that was slightly better. Still I failed to make sales of any account. One day, while on my way to interview a particularly desirable customer I had time and again failed to secure, I fell into seriously wondering why I didn’t make good. Frankly, I was pretty well discouraged and just about ready to quit.
“To reach the office of this customer I had to pass over an open field. On the way across this field I had to climb a fence, and, while straddling it, I looked down at my muddy shoes and soiled trouser legs and the thought struck me, ‘What would
my bosses think of me if they could see me now?’ And with that thought came an after-clap of inspiration. After I had wiped away the mud from my clothing I walked boldly into the private office of the customer and talked to him just the same as I might if my chiefs were standing at my elbow watching my every movement and listening to every word I said.
“I sold that customer a bill of goods with such remarkable ease I went away astonished at myself. That was the beginning of my success as a salesman. Even to the last day I spent on the road I used to address myself quietly before entering a customer’s office, say something after this fashion: ‘Now the heads of the firm are watching you; don’t do or say anything you would not do or say if they were right at your elbow.’
“I carried those two imaginary personalities with me wherever I went to do business and between the three of us we built up a business I have since been given a lion’s share of credit for establishing.”
What About Luck?
XVT'HAT about luck? Well, the element ’ ' of luck—pure accident—occasion-
ally plays a part. The insurance agent in the following cíese won out by that route, though at the time he hadn’t the slightest notion that anything but his ability was to be credited. An artist I know wanted to increase the life insurance he carried by a thousand dollars. He was turned down by one company after another, because their medical examiners found indications of definite organic trouble. About a year after he had given up hope, a friend who had just gone into insurance salesmanship commenced to worry him for a policy. One day, in order to end the matter, the artist consented to be insured. “You can make the policy for five thousand dollars,” he said with a grin. “For,” he told himself, “I’ll never get past the medical examiner.”
Imagine his consternation when the insurance doctor gave him a clean bill! The symptoms on which he had previously been turned down had disappeared. “It simply cost me one hundred and thirty-two dollars in a first yearly premium for that practical joke I thought I was turning on a green insurance man,” said the artist. “Oh well, such is life. I’ve got the insurance and an assurance that my health is all right in return for it.”